2 May 2015

Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love

What is it about 2015 and band's coming back?  In the next coming month's we are going to hear new music from Faith No More, we have already had Napalm Death come back(cleverly linked here), The Prodigy have returned with a storming record (cleverly linked here), Blur will be releasing a new record and even Natalie Imbruglia is making a comeback.  However, the name that we (when I say we, I mean me and Luke) were interested in reviewing was Sleater-Kinney.  For my part it was to finally get to listen to their stuff and see why they were held in such high regards, I think that Luke is already a fan so it is an album he had been interested in.  Anyway when the album got listed, Luke put up that he was going to review it; but for Mr Dunmore life is going to be very interesting in the next few months (two new people into the world interesting, if you get what I mean), hence why he has not been able to contribute as much as usual.  So, I have asked if I can take this one off his hands and add it to the pile I am doing.  Anyway, enough about our behind the scenes stuff - who are Sleater-Kinney I hear some of you ask.....

Sleater-Kinney are one of the original Riot Grrl scene from the early 90's which came out of North America, together with Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and other artists they showed the world that you do not have to be a man to make music with a punk rock/indie attitude and sound like a commercial for sugar.  Riot Grrl was an expression of beliefs and attitudes to show that women can do what they wish to do, it is a genre that is sometimes frowned upon which is very unfair in my opinion.  But that is a discussion for another day, this is the eighth album and their first since 2005.  After such a long time between releases, some people have been wondering what they will have to say.  Now as I mentioned earlier on, I have not (to my knowledge) heard Sleater-Kinney before; but they are a band (along with a great many others) that I have always wanted to listen to – sorry it took me so long to get with the program.  So I am going into this with no preconceptions of what they will sound like, all I am expecting is some punk-ish, angular rock with a message or two behind the sound.  Let us see what it is all about….

Starting off the album is the song “Price Tag” which focuses on material possession and the way we all love a bargain, sometimes at a cost that is too much for some of the less fortunate in society. The angular distortion drone of the band is engaging from the opening, there is a lo-fi feeling to the music and it has the angular rock that I was imagining from the band.  It is a song that has very quickly moved up my top songs for 2015, it is a powerful opening that should have fans and new people interested from the opening bars of the song.  Second track “Fangless” starts with the drums and then everything comes in with minimal angular movement and a guitar tone which is very punk, but without the need to reach for a distortion peddle.  This tale of ‘what goes around, comes around’ is a really good number; it continues the quality from “Price Tag”, but it does not take the speed up or slow things down too much.  In fact it has a bit of the Rolling Stones in places (some of the backing vocals remind me of “Gimme Shelter”), but with their own authority and stamp placed all over it.  With a riff that sounds like falling down a hole into darkness, “Surface Envy” is a tale about support and how things can be completed by finding a partner (in crime/love/destruction – take your pick) and some of the side effect of this type of relationship.  I find it to be a fascinating number, the imagery of being in a whole, stuck underwater and with heavy weight that hold down the person in the song, it just speaks to me of finding that someone who knows what makes you tick and the freedom of doing whatever you want without the fear of persecution – this is one of the many highlight of this album, it was incredibly close to being the song of the album.  The fourth track, “No Cities To Love” however, this is the song of the album for me (and I can see why the title was chosen to be the name of the album); a tale about not loving a city, but the environment around you (be it weather/location/Person or other) is laced over one of those tunes that really speaks to this blogger (still cannot think of myself as a right – Dan Le Sac & Scroobius Pip said so).  I like the loose feeling to the guitar sound and the bass dropping with the right amount of force, but not overpowering the drums/lyrics or guitars.  It is that good a song!  The fifth track is called “A New Wave” which sounds like it could have been made during the original new wave period of the 80’s, it is another song about partnership (some people will see a love song, some people will find it to be about something else – interpretation is everything here).  The music just keeps on giving on this album, this song is another number that will be going through people’s heads for days after they have first listened; also the fade out at the end of the song is perfect retro 80’s and makes a nice touch to end the number. 

“No Anthems” is the opposite to the bright sunshine of “A New Wave”; it starts with a sludgy, powerful riff and gives way to a sinister verse that is eventually smashed to pieces with a bridge and chorus that hark back to the 90’s for this song and the alternative/grunge period when the world wore plaid shirts and the finger was firmly raised up to the world.  It is a good number, really well played and after repeated listens it made a lot more sense, but it is the first song on the album that did not grab me instantly; but it is still a good song, regardless of my first impression.  The seventh track is the indie disco-esque “Gimme Love”, it is short, sharp and to the point; but with a large slab of disco to the riff and with a danceable quality.  This song would make the most miserable of people smile, even if only for the brief two minutes that it is playing.  “Bury Our Friends” is the cheery number that you might be expecting from the title – it is all angular rock, ironic lyrics about breaking free from bounds and becoming something else in a world that is the most important thing to them.  It is another track that took a few listens to actually sink in for me, but it is worth the persistence as it reveals more with each spin of the song.  This is followed by the penultimate tune which is called “Hey Darling”, it is just over two minutes in length and it is another tale about being with someone and not leaving their side.  It does not explode out of the blogs and keeps up the slow burning performance of the band.  It is not a slow number, it certainly does not plod; but it does have a garage slow pounding that is still danceable at the same time.  I will be honest and say it is the only track on the album that feels like a filler, but only having one filler in a ten track album is a win in my books.  Speaking of the tenth (and final) song of the album, this is the angular indie titian called “Fade” which is the tale of something beautiful coming to a spectacular and fitting end. They take their time with this one and build it slowly, adding layers to the sound and letting it fly at the right time; it is clever song to bring this album to an end.

Well, that was an interesting record; it is exactly as I would have expected it to be, angular rock with some fantastic tunes.  The beginning of the album is especially impressive and “Fade” is also as fitting an ending to an album as well.  There is a little lull in place, but overall this still keeps the quality high on the record as well.  It does not feel like a retro trip or like a band stuck in a time rut, it feels as if they have come back around just when they had something to say.  It certainly makes me interested in finding out more about their earlier work and it also has a tune in “No Cities To Love” that could be the song of the year for this man.  If you prefer your rock to be angular go no further than this album – Luke, you missed out on reviewing a very good album.

Top track – No Cities To Love

7.5 out of ten – This is good and worth checking out

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Sleater-Kinney website here

You can also follow their activities on Facebook here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

For our Deezer users, here is a link for you

Finally, here is a link for our Tidal users

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